Heroes of the Faith

Abraham, Sarah and the Angel, Jan Provoost

Who are your heroes? The people you look up to?

Are they a good example?  Are they worthy of your respect?

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

The Great Faith of God’s People

11 Faith makes us sure of what we hope for and gives us proof of what we cannot see. It was their faith that made our ancestors pleasing to God.

Because of our faith, we know that the world was made at God’s command. We also know that what can be seen was made out of what cannot be seen.

Abraham had faith and obeyed God. He was told to go to the land that God had said would be his, and he left for a country he had never seen. Because Abraham had faith, he lived as a stranger in the promised land. He lived there in a tent, and so did Isaac and Jacob, who were later given the same promise. 10 Abraham did this, because he was waiting for the eternal city that God had planned and built.

11 Even when Sarah was too old to have children, she had faith that God would do what he had promised, and she had a son. 12 Her husband Abraham was almost dead, but he became the ancestor of many people. In fact, there are as many of them as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand along the beach.

13 Every one of those people died. But they still had faith, even though they had not received what they had been promised. They were glad just to see these things from far away, and they agreed that they were only strangers and foreigners on this earth. 14 When people talk this way, it is clear that they are looking for a place to call their own. 15 If they had been talking about the land where they had once lived, they could have gone back at any time. 16 But they were looking forward to a better home in heaven. That’s why God wasn’t ashamed for them to call him their God. He even built a city for them.

This is a roll call of Biblical history.  A list of those who lived by faith, following God.  For some reason the lectionary omits Abel, Enoch and Noah from verses 4-7, I don’t know what they have done to offend!

Some of you may have seen this article last week about teaching our children about the Heroes of Faith.  It argues that we have taught the heroes of the faith, not to teach our children about real human people, with real human foibles, who God still manages to love and use, but rather to use them to teach our Sunday School children to be good little boys and girls.  You may or may not agree…

This passage (if we read it all) tells us about the great figures of our faith, but it also uses them as an example of people who believed – even when they couldn’t see.  Who had to literally walk by faith, because they could see no other way in the situations they were in.  They had no proof, but plenty of hope.

Abraham was no saint.  He believed God’s promises, but also did all he could to make them happen.  He got fed up of waiting for God.  His faith faltered and he forgot that it didn’t rely on him.  His wife Sarah laughed when she heard God’s promises.  She didn’t believe, she was sceptical.  Their lives became difficult from their own efforts to bring about God’s promise.

So how about us?    Have you tried to make things happen yourself, to force God’s hand?  Have you laughed in God’s face when you’ve heard his plans for you?  I know I have.  Sometimes it can be difficult to believe what God says to us.

But that is ok.  Because we are people of faith, not sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).  Some things are hard, if not impossible, to grasp with our minds.  We are human.  People with our own thoughts and feelings, our own hopes and desires, our own plans.  The good news is so were Abraham and Sarah (and Abel and Enoch and Noah).  God has a track record of using very human people, with very human foibles.

We may not be perfect, but by faith we are heroes – for and with God.

We are all strangers and foreigners on earth, walking towards a better place.  So are those we live amongst.  We journey together – not as superior guides, but as fellow travellers.

Lord,
I walk by faith.
I have no other choice,
because life is confusing
and bemusing.
I don’t always understand your ways,
but I trust them.

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